A scholarly pursuit of the market-friendly policies put in effect by President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shows a paradigm shift still going strong today.
The “rules” of the new world order after the Cold War involved a triumph of market-orientated democracy led by the U.S. and Great Britain, as Cronin (History/Boston Coll.) delineates in his nonpolemical study. Since World War II, the economic paradigm of state intervention and low unemployment prevailed with varied success. Yet by the 1970s, the paradigm was no longer able to properly deal with escalating inflation, conflicting “stop-go” measures and accompanying slowdown, both in the U.S. and Britain—and the latter was bedeviled by bitter clashes with the trade unions. Enter Reagan and Thatcher roughly at the same time on the world stage, presenting their transformational visions away from the assumption that the state is responsible for ensuring full employment and economic well-being and toward policies of cutting taxes and paring down expenditures. Cronin sees the accession of these two leaders as a “reaction” to populist measures by a new set of (business) interests bent on a “cold logic of redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top.” Indeed, the author notes how these policies created a kind of “class war”—a clear new set of winners and losers. Reagan and Thatcher’s free market approach also extended to their views on the rest of the world—e.g., in combating communism and creating a huge military strength to back it up. Their “market revolutions” were meant to be enduring, and subsequent leaders would have a hard time reversing course, especially Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Cronin meticulously leads readers through 30 years of development of networks and institutions vitally linked to this “open, market-oriented world order.”
A well-researched, tightly presented study of government policies on both sides of the Atlantic.